Capstone Guidelines

The following are some general guidelines and answers to common questions about capstone projects/theses. Some concentrations have specific guidelines for projects/theses. You must consult with your concentration head for more information on what your project or thesis should entail. Furthermore, every project or thesis committee will have specific requirements for each student, so it is critically important for students to work closely with their committee chair during the proposal stage.

What are the advantages of doing a project versus a thesis; and vice versa?

What skills or traits will an excellent capstone project or thesis demonstrate?

What kind of research should I expect to do for my capstone?  What kinds of source material should I anticipate working with?

What topics have students addressed in their capstones?

What kinds of topics are not suitable for a capstone?

What kinds of deliverables are suitable capstone projects?

What kinds of deliverables are not suited for capstone project?

What can I do to get ready for my capstone?

What are the advantages of doing a project versus a thesis; and vice versa?

It really depends on your research interests, what you want out of your capstone experience, who you want on your committee, and your plans after graduation.

For further information regarding the differences between a project and a thesis, see Project vs. Thesis.

What skills or traits will an excellent capstone project or thesis demonstrate?

  • The ability to competently synthesize information with examples, theories, or facts from more than one field of study or learning context, and to reconcile competing arguments.
  • Command of the current literature of your relevant field(s) and the ability to situate original work within that literature.
  • The ability to frame an interesting research problem and develop an appropriate yet creative methodology to address it.
  • The ability to collect published data appropriate to your research problem and apply it in a practical or creative way (project); or the ability to collect original data appropriate to your research problem and interpret in an innovative way (thesis).
  • The ability to craft a coherent argument and support it with well-organized evidence that reveals insightful patterns, differences, or similarities.
  • The ability to present research orally and in writing in a rigorous and professionally competent manner.
  • The ability to produce work with good potential for implementation, exhibition, or production (project); or good potential for publication and/or admission to a doctoral program (thesis).

What kind of research should I expect to do for my capstone? What kinds of source material should I anticipate working with?

Any methodology and type of source material is possible, so long as it is consistent with the design and learning outcomes of your degree.

What topics have students addressed in their capstones?

The topics students have addressed are as varied as the concentrations available and the interests of the individual students within the program. For examples of topics within each concentration, please see "A Sampling of Previous Capstone Topics."

What kinds of topics are not suitable for a capstone?

There is nothing explicitly off the table. The key is to acquire appropriate subject matter expertise through your courses and experiential learning, cultivate faculty support for your ideas, and defend your approach in your research proposal.

What kinds of deliverables are suitable capstone projects?

Deliverables have included curricula, white papers, workshops, business plans, and creative works. In addition, a formal framing statement (overview of the problem addressed by the deliverable, literature review, and discussions of methodology and significance) is always required.

What kinds of deliverables are not suitable for capstone project?

Students should not anticipate being allowed to produce a creative work (like a piece of art, music, or theater) unless it is explicitly required by the design of their individualized degree.

What can I do to get ready for my capstone?

  • Discuss potential topics with your fellow students, your concentration head, and other faculty mentors. .
  • Take courses that will give you the subject matter expertise required for you to be authoritative in your capstone topic.
  • Research appropriate library resources and start compiling the literature that will inform your capstone.
  • Take a research methods course to help you develop a methodology appropriate to your interests.
  • Assemble a project or thesis committee. Identify a committee chair and other members of your committee to mentor you.
  • Take MAIS 797- Interdisciplinary Studies Proposal. MAIS 797 provides a structured environment in which students work on their proposals with the MAIS 797 instructor and the student's project/thesis committee chair. The course culminates in the presentation of the research project/thesis proposal to an audience of peers and professors.
  • For advice from an alumni on preparing for your Capstone, read "Student Perspective on Preparing for Your Capstone."